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Willow's <COPINGMECHANISM> is decidedly current, but disappointingly passé


Release date: 07 October 2022
WILLOW Album Artwork
07 October 2022, 13:00 Written by Will Green

<COPINGMECHANISM> is a 21st-century title from a 21st-century artist. WILLOW herself is just turning 22, and her latest release, with its nods to online culture and mental health, is undoubtedly modern.

It's now 14 years since that Willow Smith appeared on our screens in Madagascar, and a now fully-fledged WILLOW is onto her fifth studio album. Indeed, there’s not a great deal to separate this record from her previous work. For example, <COPINGMECHANISM>’s title, and the rest of the tracklist, make liberal use of punctuation and capitalisation, from greater/less than brackets to an exclamation mark. Yet this is nothing new – the singer has used similar strategies in her previous work, and such an approach to song naming loses its freshness so after four albums of the same.

The songs themselves also initially appeal, pulsing with energy, and with tight, crisp drums overlying echoing backing vocals. WILLOW’s lead vocals are pushed to the front of the mix, and delivered with pleasing clarity, even when reciting her lines at breakneck speed, although her voice isn’t always utilised to its full potential. Whilst "curious/furious" is a perfectly formed pop song, WILLOW’s voice cracks on the high notes do appear to be slightly contrived.

The album is best when it escapes its own self-defined mould. "Falling Endlessly"'s crunchy guitar riff is straight out of the Franz Ferdinand playbook, whilst "No Control" experiments with tremolo effects. Yet the majority of the songs lack innovation; there’s little to separate them sonically, and none extends beyond the 210-second mark, which perhaps suggests that WILLOW lacks the ability to bring her tracks to a satisfactory close.

WILLOW’s latest release is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it just isn’t good. The lyrics offer little of interest, and whilst the vocals are something of a saving grace, much of the album is just too samey to captivate a listener. <COPINGMECHANISM> is less an Academy Award-esque slap and more a gentle pat administered by a doting grandma – it’s nothing you’ve not seen before. Worth a go, but don’t expect too much.

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